Bing Algorithm May Have Cost Businesses and Students
If you were running promotions for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you’d probably want to be found in search engines as people scrambled for holiday deals. You might even be offended if you weren’t ranking reasonably well when not only do you own the domain CyberMonday.com, but you are the one credited for coming up with Cyber Monday in the first place.
Well, that’s what happened to Shop.org (which is a division of the National Retail Federation), which is credited with coming up with Cyber Monday, and does own CyberMonday.com. Bing banned CyberMonday.com from its search results just at the time of the year when the site would be most useful to consumers. It’s back now, but who’s looking for Cyber Monday deals at this point?
Did Bing make a mistake? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Danny Sullivan first reported on the ordeal at the end of November, when Bing told him:
Consistent with our guidance to site owners, websites that seem to rely mostly on affiliate content or that offer only thin content often don’t deliver the value searchers are looking for and may be demoted or removed from our index. This is something we continually refine and look at closely throughout the year.
It’s nothing new, and follows guidance we’ve given on our webmaster site. We don’t have any specifics to share.
Thin content. As Sullivan pointed out, it sounds like Bing’s version of Panda, but at the same time, they said it was nothing new.
Now, a couple weeks later, Sullivan is sharing another statement from Bing saying:
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notorious times for spammers, and during this time Bing’s spam classification algorithm picked up this spam pattern and heightened its criteria.
Bing took proactive action to protect our users by removing questionable domains.
In an effort to protect our users some questionable domains may have been demoted or removed that some may consider legitimate sites.
We have since revised our algorithm which has led to some previously blocked sites returning to the index.
The site was never demoted by Google, which has been on a well-documented campaign by the name of Panda to get rid of “thin content” from its top search results. When I search “cyber monday” in Google, cybermonday.com is second in the organic listings only to the Wikipedia page for Cyber Monday.
I guess the real question is: is cybermonday.com an ideal search result for the query Cyber Monday?
It seems to be good enough for both Google and Bing now. The site basically exists solely to provide users with Cyber Monday deals, and when consumers are searching for “cyber monday,” there’s a good chance that’s exactly what they’re looking for. And who better to point to these deals than the entity that created Cyber Monday in the first place?
You might say that this result would be at its most relevant right around the time when it was banned by Bing. People searching for “cyber monday” in June might be looking more for information about the day (like numbers or advice on preparation for example), but it they’re searching for it just ahead of Cyber Monday or on Cyber Monday itself, the probability that they’re looking for deals goes up.
This would have probably caused a much greater stink if this happened with Google rather than Bing, especially considering all of the antitrust talk and scrutiny that surrounds Google these days. In fact, Sullivan noted in his article that some have even accused Bing of demoting sites in favor of driving traffic to its own Bing Shopping results. But Bing doesn’t have nearly the search market share that Google does, so the impact probably wasn’t as great as it could have been otherwise.
But that’s not to say there was no impact. Bing’s market share has grown steadily since its launch, and it also powers Yahoo’s results.
This year, Cyber Monday was the biggest online spending day in history in the U.S. There were a lot of businesses competing for that money. It makes you wonder how this might have affected sales for the businesses featuring deals on CyberMonday.com. These are all third-party businesses mind you. It’s not like it’s just Shop.org getting affected here.
On top of that, a portion of the proceeds from the purchases made from the CyberMonday.com site go to support a scholarship fund for students pursuing careers in the e-commerce industry.
This algorithm adjustment may have actually affected student financial aid.
To review what Bing had to day about it: “In an effort to protect our users some questionable domains may have been demoted or removed that some may consider legitimate sites.”
Yes. Some may consider CyberMonday.com from Shop.org from the National Retail Federation a legitimate site.
Apparently Bing does too, since it’s back in the search results, with about a year to go before it’s at its most relevant.
Did Bing mess up here? Tell us what you think in the comments.